Convenience for the shopper is very much the in-thing in the 21st century.
Why go to the shops when you can pick up your mobile phone, and order in your monthly shopping, a takeaway or a film?
That thinking applies to Edinburgh tech start-up Drinkly.
An online drinks delivery service, Drinkly launched on 30 November 2016, and quenches the thirsts of over 5,600 regular customers in Edinburgh and Glasgow by delivering chilled drinks door to door in under one hour.
Having started in the capital, Drinkly soon expanded to Scotland’s largest city – and was recently touted by Forbes as one of the top five Scottish start-ups to watch.
Drinkly is owned by John Robertson, who said: ‘I’ve always worked in the drinks industry, so it’s always been something of a passion for me. I was with Innis and Gunn and it got to a time where I decided I wanted to do something different, so I went to do a business course in the US and do my own thing.
‘I took a break in Boston for four months, looking at the drinks market there, to see what was working and what wasn’t. They were talking about e-commerce and quick delivery.
‘There was a business in 75 cities which had created a new market and I wondered if it would work in Scotland.’
On his return to his homeland, John quickly put his ideas in motion.
He explained: ‘I came back and got together with a great independent wine chain, Vino, in Edinburgh. I got a branded car and put a simple website in place, so people could come on to the site, find the drinks they wanted, and I would go and deliver it myself for the first six months.
‘I wanted to learn from the customer and get their instant feedback. People would say they didn’t like certain things about the website, that they wanted a Western Australian wine, or a bigger list of spirits – that was all part of getting to understand the customer and what they wanted.
‘For people who didn’t live locally, some wanted things like wines sent overseas for someone’s birthday, for a hen or stag do, as a Christmas gift, to send a really nice bottle of wine – this was all really important to me to know.’
By delivering drinks to customers at their homes, it’s easy to imagine there could be people trying to exploit the system, whether being underage, or being excessively drunk, but John is very particular about how Drinkly works.
He explained: ‘We operate within the law. We have last orders at 10pm, and will deliver until 11pm. Most of our orders come between 6-10pm, and they seem to be very happy with the range of products that we have.
‘The consumer has never had more choice. More and more people are looking online to find quality products, and to have them delivered as conveniently and quickly as they possibly can.
‘All our drivers are fully trained. They will ask for ID when they make a delivery, and if it’s not produced, then they will not receive their order. If you are drunk or there’s another reason our drivers aren’t happy, the order will be taken back to the retailer.
‘The driver has the right to decide whether to serve a customer or not.’
Ensuring that their website is easy to use is something that John is keen on.
He explained: ‘One of the big things we noticed is making your own website for a small starter company is very time consuming. People didn’t have the time to manage it but we’ve now made it a more ready to use, convenient process. The retailer uploads their inventory and we bring them the customers. They can see, for example, 650 products on sale in Edinburgh.
‘We also noticed our customers liked buying with local and independent breweries, selling products you can’t necessarily get in the supermarkets, so we can list beers from a local brewery, for example. We can get local products out to the consumer.
‘We also can do wine to match people’s tastes. For example, we can ask the customer what they are having for dinner, find out their favourite variety of grape, and recommend it from there.’
Looking to the future, Drinkly have big plans.
John concluded: ‘There’s now a team of four of us, and we tap into a network of drivers who are independent contractors.
‘We’re now operating in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and plan to launch in eight more cities this year.
‘The opportunity for convenience is there, and we are a hugely ambitious firm. We want to create a stir in the market.’